“Lord bless our missionaries, bless our pastor bless my family…”

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions
with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying
for all the Lord’s people”
Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

Prayer is at one and the same time simple and complex. When saying bedtime prayers with your young children or grandchildren the words used and requests made are simple. However, when praying alone your expressions can be more concentrated and complex.

As a new believer attending Wednesday night prayer meeting, I paid close attention to how various saints worded their prayers. Various times I heard some believers using a catchall phrase that went like the title to today’s devotional. They asked for nothing specifically, just the vague word “bless”. Even as a new believer I thought this was not like the prayers recorded in Scripture.

In the Bible the recorded prayers are focussed and so the one praying will know when the petition is answered, and they can move on to other needs that come their way. When ordering dinner in a restaurant you would never tell the waiter, “Please bring me food.” Of course, the waiter will bring you “food”. You need to tell the waiter which specific food you want before your meal can be prepared.

This is why I recommend using a prayer journal to record specific needs people have. Then when you pray you can easily recall exactly what is needed. When you are praying for a lot of people without the use of a prayer journal it is all too easy to forget to pray for someone or some need they have. Being organized in prayer is not unspiritual rather it is the godly thing to do. 1 Cor. 14:40 (NIV)

“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

If you create a journal on your computer consider using the four parts recently suggested,

1. Adoration, 2. Confession, 3. Thanksgiving, and 4. Supplication. When you receive an email containing a prayer request you can cut and paste it into your journal.

However you organize your prayer life, PRAY! Your Father in heaven awaits your prayers. So, come to Him and come now.

Joyful Prayers

“In all my prayers for all of you,
I always pray with joy because of your partnership
in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Philippians 1:4-5 (NIV)

A wonderful study for anyone interested in prayer is the examination of the prayers of Paul for his spiritual children. It seems to be a very earnest and regular exercise on the part of Paul and gives us an opening into his private spiritual life.

As I wrote this devotional I took a break and collected the mail. Among the items in the mail box was a beautifully illustrated sales brochure from a local Bible Bookstore. I eagerly searched its pages in order to find any books on prayer. It listed hundreds of volumes but I did not find one on prayer. Then I looked again and did manage to find a lonely title for prayer.

What is the matter with the Christian Church today when the stores advertise hundreds of “Christian romance” fictional books (especially Amish ones) but prayer to God apparently does not sell? Can that be a wakeup call for the church?

Paul found enormous joy in the exercise of prayer especially when it was for his beloved Philippian believers. Therefore we should look at this spiritual exercise in a brighter light than we sometimes do.

We are all familiar with prayers of lament or regret. We find such prayers scattered throughout the entire Bible. These prayers seem to be crushed out of us by the great burden we carry. Alternatively, prayers of joy are also found throughout the Bible and are in the context of praise, celebration, responses to the blessing of God upon us.

People who suffer need to mix prayers of joy with their prayers of lament. Find people in whom you rejoice, faithful friends, pastors who minister Scripture effectively, good examples of faithful Christians to model your own life after. Then consider the ways the Lord has blessed you and ministered grace even in the context of sorrow. Pour out prayers of thanksgiving for mercies received. God loves to hear of our gratitude to Him for His lovingkindness.

Remember that Paul was in the most intolerable of conditions physically, spiritually, and psychologically as his jailers were holding the sword of death over his head unjustly. Such circumstances can play with a person’s mind powerfully. What helped to keep Paul calm was the assurance that his followers, in whom he rejoiced, continued to serve the Lord effectively.

So look around you and find the people or things in which you can truly rejoice and then praise the Lord for them. Bring your prayers up a couple of notches today by offering prayers of thanksgiving right in the midst of your suffering.

Trying To Forget

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”
Philippians 1:3 (NIV)

Most of us who have lived long lives can recall a few people we wish we could forget. Possibly the person hurt you in some way. Perhaps the individual was a nuisance and was phoning you all the time. Whatever the reason, you would have preferred not to have had them in your life in the first place.

On the other hand if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will admit that we have messed up here or there in our personal relationships. For one reason or another we have soured our memory in some peoples’ minds.

As Paul recalls his time in Philippi and his relationship to the Christians there, he has every reason to be thankful for them and not even one reason to be disappointed or discouraged about them.

These people must have been very special Christians indeed! How can anyone live in such a way that those around them do not find any fault, any slip, and flaws whatever? Well, thankfully some people seem to live that way.

Now if you read 1 Corinthians you find a church that is messed up beyond description. Paul must have had migraine headaches every time he thought about that church. They were spiritually immature, hopelessly divided, selfish, lacking in the understanding of Christian truth, happy to have immoral people in their midst, and on the long list of failures and sin goes.

I recall hearing of a church that gave itself the name, “The Corinthian Church”. They used that name to emphasize that the church was charismatic. Sadly they did not understand that the most charismatic church of apostolic time was nothing but a disaster.

What is it that made this church in Philippi such a joy to Paul? It takes the rest of the letter to see all that is good about this fellowship of faith.

Can you seek to be the type of Christian who is desirable to all who see you? The Christian who most blessed me over the years was a lady who became paralyzed in her 30’s and soon went blind. She was already over 50 years in an institution when I first met her. All the staff in the place where she lived loved her greatly. She was joyful in the Lord and often the staff could hear her softly praying or singing to God’s glory.

Many people would suggest her life was wasted, but I know of no Christian who was healthy and active who touched lives as profoundly as she did. When she sang Amazing Grace there was an authenticity in her voice that is lacking in the lives of those who have never suffered deeply.

Take the sorrow you have in life, dedicate it to God and use it to influence others to seek the Lord. Your voice will come across with an authority that others lack. Get busy exalting the Lord from where you sit and you and those around you shall be blessed.

Prayer That Prevails

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
James 5:16 (NIV)

Prayer is a powerful means of touching the heart of God. But how do we organize our prayers? How and where do we begin?

First, we need to be right with God prior to prayer. In Psalm 24:3-4 (NIV) we read:

“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart…”

Unconfessed sin is a block to gaining the ear of the Lord. Isaiah 59:2 (NIV) tells us,

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

The only time we can pray when sin is present in our lives is with the intention to confess our sins. In Luke 18:10-13 (NIV) we read about Jesus saying,

“Two men went up to the temple to pray,
one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed:
‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—
robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance.
He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

Humility is the key that opens the door of blessing from the Lord. Listen to the tone of your voice as you begin to pray. A voice that is assertive, loud, or aggressive has no place in the throne room of heaven.

I recall a conference where the chairperson led in an opening prayer and it sounded like the Pharisee in Luke 18. He almost demanded that the Lord give him what he wanted. On another occasion a man who was enamoured by Jesus’ teaching about calling God “Father”, commenced a congregational prayer with the loud exclamation, “Daddy!” In both cases it felt a lot more like a performance than a prayer.

James 4:6 tells us that the Lord resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. So, I believe that we need to have confession near the beginning of our times of prayer.

Also, I encourage people to consider the merits of a prayer journal to organize your prayer time under 4 headings. 1. Worship, 2. Confession, 3. Thanksgiving , and 4. Petition. A popular way to remember this is with the acronym ACTS. 1. Adoration (Worship), 2. Confession, 3. Thanksgiving, and, 4. Supplication (Petition).

More importantly, however you pray, be sure to pray. It is too easy to start the day at a hectic pace with no time in your rushed routine for prayer; or to come to the end of a long day too weary and too tired to have clear enough thoughts to approach the Lord in reverent and humble heart felt prayer. God is not expecting long and comprehensive prayers from us all the time, but he is looking for communion with us—starting with acknowledgement of who He is, followed by a request for forgiveness and the offer of thanksgiving for His persistent protection and care.

Times without number have I prayed,
“This only once forgive”,
Relapsing, when Thy hand was stayed,
And suffered me to live;

Yet now the kingdom of Thy peace,
Lord to my heart restore;
Forgive my vain repentance,
And bid me sin no more.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Hello?

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:2 (NIV)

Language is the tool of my trade. Words are what I give out to communicate the grace of God to my listeners. Hence I listen carefully to the speech of others and I seek to chose my words carefully as I speak on behalf of God.

One of the more amusing aspects of speaking in the English language in our culture are the silly words of greeting and farewell. For example we say “Hello” when we greet someone. We say, “Good bye” when we depart from someone. Most people have not a clue from where these words came or what they originally meant.

In Jesus’ time when you came into a home you would not say, “Hello” you would say something like, “Peace be upon your house.” (Luke 10:5-6). A response might be, “And peace be on you.”

There was a richness of expression in the words of Jewish people that we Gentiles lack completely. So long was the full greeting of someone that Jesus had to forbid the disciples from greeting people as they travelled, such was the urgency of spreading the message (Luke 10:4).

As we read the greeting of Paul to the Philippian church we see something of this rich greeting. Paul desires that the readers have “grace and peace from God”. What a prayer is to be seen in this greeting. What is important to Paul is that people experience the grace of God in their everyday life.

In all of Paul’s greetings these words are found. And as we consider that Paul designates the source of grace and peace as coming from the Father and the Son we certainly concur.

All the grace we need in life ultimately comes from God Himself. We considered the abundance of God’s grace recently. The word “grace” refers to unmerited favour from God. Grace addresses us as needy.

Paul puts grace first and does so wisely. As we experience the grace of God, peace like a river floods our hearts and minds. In order to have peace we must first have the grace of God in our lives. We know that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

It might be embarrassing for us to greet people in the way it was done in Bible times but imagine the impact on those who took the time to get beyond the “foreign” sounding greeting and realized exactly what you said? Your friends do not have a clue what the word hello means so why not greet them with something much more meaningful?